Chances are your child owns at least one mobile device. Almost 50% of young children own their own tablet. Kids and screen time have become a rising concern for parents and caregivers, as children now spend as much as 6.5 hours looking at screens every day. Even very young children, under 8, spend an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes of each day in front of a screen. This obsession with screens raises questions like: “Is that much screen time healthy for my child?” and “How do I know if they are addicted to screens?”
The Dangers of Excessive Screen Time
One family decided to do their own study to see just how screen time affected their kids and if they were addicted. After giving their kids 48 hours of unlimited screen time, the results were shocking. Their kids slept as little as six hours at night, and one child used multiple screens at once for an astounding, combined screen time of 46 hours.
Excessive screen time in children can cause devastating and long-lasting effects. These can be as serious as speech delays, emotional instability, trouble sleeping, and poor social skills. Kids can become withdrawn and depressed and do poorly in school. They are at increased risk for obesity, and their relationships can suffer.
Recognizing A Screen Addiction
The recommended amount of screen time for a child is only 1-2 hours a day. Kids are not good at self-regulating and the job of setting limits and boundaries is up to parents. Parenting a child addicted to video games and TV takes constant vigilance. Here are some screen addiction symptoms to look for that may indicate that your child is addicted to screens.
- If you have tried cutting back on their screen time and they were very resistant.
- If they are more interested in screen time than any other activities.
- If they only talk about things they see on their screens.
- If your child isn’t communicating and socializing because they want to bring a screen to every social gathering.
- If they get in a better mood when you allow them unlimited screen time.
- If they lie or try to deny their obsessive amount of screen time.
If your child shows signs of these symptoms, they may have a screen addiction that you should address. Some children are affected more by screen time than others. Coincidently, it is not the actual amount of time that your child spends in front of screens that matters, but how it affects them personally. If they spend a lot of time in front of screens, but they still have other hobbies and interests, they probably don’t have an issue. If it is interrupting your child’s life and they seem consumed by a need for more screen time, they are probably addicted.
What Parents Can Do to Combat a Screen Addiction
Raising whole, well-balanced children means setting boundaries and limits. Children need creative play, time outdoors, and genuine interaction and connection with others. They shouldn’t only be pros at social media interaction. A child’s days should be filled with variety and activities that require them to use their minds to focus rather than robotically allowing something else to holding their attention for hours. Half of the kids in the world now spend less than an hour of their day enjoying the outdoors. Kids are out of balance and parents are right to be concerned.
Thankfully, you can help your child overcome a screen addiction. Set time limits on device usage and enforce them. This is difficult but crucially important to your child’s overall well-being. Help older children learn to set limits for themselves and let them know that you are their advocate. When you see them pick up a device again, ask if they have had a lot of screen time earlier that day and suggest other activities that might interest them. Encourage them to make good choices and learning some self-control.
Remind older kids that owning a phone is a responsibility and they must use it appropriately, or they will lose that freedom. Set a good example for them by monitoring your own usage, as well.
Don’t add to the problem by using devices as a babysitter for your kids. While that is fine for an hour a day, it is not okay to do all day. Get outside and spend time with your kids. Connect and make memories together. Sometimes kids are just filling their hours with entertaining activities, but they may also be trying to fill a need for a deeper, more meaningful connection. Kids need time with their parents every day and simply being available is one of the most powerful ways that you can combat a screen addiction in your child.